GOB woke up mid-afternoon, back aching from sleeping on an unbearably stiff couch. He smashed his fist against it, to no avail. No matter how he moved or sat, it remained stubbornly uncomfortable. Lindsay and Tobias should have shopped around more for furniture when decorating their new house, GOB thought. There had to be couches out there that were both comfortable and nice-looking. His sister and her husband had obviously opted for looks over quality, because GOB felt like he’d been dozing on a wood pallet for hours.
The house was quiet, so GOB figured that Lindsay and Tobias had gone out somewhere. He flicked on the TV, and had just flipped to Days of Our Lives when he became aware of a weird whining sound. He muted the TV, but the sound was still there, so he stood up and followed the sound throughout the house until he came to a bedroom beside Lindsay and Tobias’s room. Through the cracked door, GOB peered into the room, unsure if that was where the noise was coming from. Then the whine erupted into an earsplitting wail, which was definitely coming from the bedroom.
Oh, shit. That was Lindsay’s kid in there, wasn't it? GOB pushed open the door all the way and entered the bedroom. Jesus, there was a lot of pink in there. The baby was still wailing, and neither Lindsay nor Tobias was home to deal with her, so GOB walked over to the crib to pick the baby up.
It took him a moment to get her situated, since the last time he'd held an infant was back when Buster was little, but eventually he got the baby comfortable and a little quieter. She was heavier than she looked (though GOB would never tell Lindsay that), and pretty squirmy, too. And - oh god, she was crying again. GOB shifted her to his hip automatically, big-brother instincts kicking in as he shushed her and searched the immediate area for a pacifier or something.
“Where does your mom keep those things?” GOB asked the baby as he opened drawers, finding frilly dresses, hats, and disposable diapers, but no pacifiers. He turned his attention to the crib, and saw one poking out from underneath a blanket. GOB hurriedly grabbed it and held it near the baby’s mouth. Thankfully, she took it, and the wailing ceased.
GOB looked at the baby. The baby looked at GOB.
“What now?” GOB asked himself out loud. He thought of just sticking her back in her crib, but then he figured that would be kind of mean. Giving the kid false hope that someone was going to give her attention and then leaving her in the crib would be pretty shitty.
Resigning himself to the fact that his afternoon would be spent babysitting his niece (damn Lindsay and Tobias), GOB looked around the room for toys, baby still propped on his hip, and found a little shape-sorter thing, a press-the-button-and-the-animals-pop-up thing, and a freaky-looking doll with a face that looked like it wanted to eat you alive. GOB gathered the shape thing and the pop-up thing under one arm, the baby on one hip, and made his way back to the living room, ‘accidentally’ kicking the creepy doll under the crib.
GOB situated his niece on the rug between the couch and the TV, and sat the toys down near her. He figured he'd just watch her for a little bit, see if she’d crawl around and tire herself out. As she shuffled around on her hands and knees, GOB realized he didn't know exactly what her name was. Wasn't it Maisie? Maddie? Maybe...right. Maeby. An odd rustling sound drew GOB out of his thoughts, and he realized that Maeby was pulling leaves off a little tree-plant by the TV. He jumped off the couch and over towards her, and sat her back by the toys. Lindsay would kill him if he let her kid destroy one of her plants - she was on a go-green kick lately. The plant was probably fake, but, well.
With Maeby back in the middle of the rug, GOB flopped back on the couch and turned his attention back to the TV. He only got to watch about ten seconds of his show, though, because soon Maeby was whacking a plastic square against the shape-sorter-thing extremely loudly.
“Ah, no, no, no!” Wincing from the noise, GOB got off the sofa and kneeled down on the rug again. He took the square from Maeby’s hand and said, “This is how you do it.” He dropped the square in the top hole. Maeby kicked her feet in excitement, and in the process sent the star shape tumbling across the rug and under the couch.
“Ah, shit,” GOB said, seeing how far he’d have to reach under the sofa. “I mean, uh, poopy,” he quickly amended. “Sorry.” He stretched out a lanky arm and scrabbled for the toy, but came up short. Oh well. His back was still sore from the couch, and he didn’t really feel like laying down on the floor to grab the plastic piece. Maeby didn’t look like she was old enough to know what to do with them, anyway.
GOB grabbed the other toy he’d brought and sat it between himself and Maeby. “How about this one? You mash the little buttons, and the guy pops up. See?” He demonstrated, then looked at Maeby. His niece was chewing on a plastic circle from the shape sorter, paying him no attention. “I mean, that’s fine too. Do what you want.”
Maeby seemed satisfied just gnawing on the plastic with her four little teeth, so GOB turned back to Days of Our Lives. He didn’t bother getting back up on the couch, just stayed on the floor with Maeby and leaned back against it. He was able get caught up in the drama for a while - some of the characters were unaware that another was still alive, someone was plotting to kill someone, the usual soap stuff. GOB tried to explain it to Maeby as she chewed on various things. You were supposed to talk to babies, right?
“See, this girl knows that Shane is really the kid’s dad. But the other girl doesn’t know that she knows that. And this guy here, he’s trying to kidnap the one girl because he’s in love with her, or whatever. And this guy, everyone thinks he’s dead, but he’s just waiting for the right moment to make his appearance. I don’t remember why they think he’s dead, though - I missed yesterday’s episode ‘cause your dad made me go look for G-strings with him. Not the underwear, like strings for an instrument. He said he was trying to start a band. I did think he was talking about underwear until we got to the music store, though. He seems the type.”
Maeby continued her chewing, this time on his fingers. She was pretty slobbery, but he’d had grosser stuff on his hands before, so it didn’t really matter.
“I don’t know how he and your mom ended up together, really,” GOB continued. “I guess she dated him to make our parents mad, but I didn’t think she’d actually marry him. She’s not the type to commit to something for very long.” He looked at Maeby and shrugged. “Maybe she’s changed. You’d better hope so, at least.”
They sat together in relative silence for a while, Maeby crawling around the room and finding various things to grab at and chew and GOB watching TV, keeping an eye on his niece so she didn’t choke on anything. After a while, though, Maeby started to get fussy. GOB watched her, wondering what was wrong. Was she hungry? Tired? Just bored?
The Price Is Right went to commercial, and GOB pulled Maeby onto his lap, holding her under the armpits and looking into her little scrunched-up face. “What is it?” he asked. She opened her mouth, and --
God, that was a loud wail. And right near his ear, too. “Okay, okay! I get it, you’re mad! What is it?” He stood up and held her against his chest, a little awkwardly, and bounced her a little bit. His mind flashed back to more than a decade ago, when he was ten and wanted Rosa to show him how to hold his new baby brother. Bustie had been smaller than Maeby was now, but it was the same idea. Hold them close, watch the neck, bounce them just a little if they’re fussy. GOB wished he’d asked Rosa about taking care of babies, though. They got hungry a lot, right? Maybe she was hungry.
GOB carried Maeby to the kitchen, still bouncing her as he looked around for anything that might solve his problem. A few baby bottles sat by the sink, and there was a bowl of fruit on the counter, and the TV was still on, and Maeby kept screaming in his ear. GOB felt like he’d been tossed into hot water as confusion and anxiety overtook him - what was going on? What should he do? Why the hell would Lindsay leave him alone with her child? He wasn’t the responsible one, that was Michael -
Michael. He had a kid, right? GOB took a deep breath, bounced Maeby some more.
This was going to be weird. GOB hadn't talked to Michael in a while - not since his kid had been born, anyway.
Lindsay had a notepad with numbers in it by the phone (a nice cordless model), and GOB flipped through it quickly, taking deep breaths to calm himself down as he searched for his brother's name. He found several 'Michael's and finally arrived at one without a last name or initial - just 'Michael' and a phone number. GOB dialed the number and waited, listening to the rings until someone picked up.
"Hello?" came a female voice.
"Hey, is Michael there?"
“No, I’m sorry, he’s at work right now. Can I take a message?”
Goddamnit. What was he supposed to do now? Who was he supposed to call?
“Uh, sir? Can I take a message?”
GOB shook himself. “No, I guess not. Unless…” Maybe this woman, whoever she was, whyever she was answering Michael’s phone, would be able to help him. “...do you know what to feed a baby?”
“...What? Is this a prank call or something? Who is this?”
“No, this is serious - I’m taking care of my sister’s kid and she didn’t tell me what to feed her, and I figured since Michael had a kid he would be able to help me.”
“Well...Michael’s not here - this is his wife. But I can probably help you. How old is she?”
“Who, the baby? I have no idea.”
“You don’t know how old your sister’s baby is?” The voice sounded incredulous and a little disapproving. It reminded GOB just enough of Michael that he automatically went on the defensive:
“Hey, I didn’t call for judgement, I asked for information. Can you help me or not?”
“I - yes, but babies eat different things at different ages. Hmm...how many teeth does she have?”
GOB peered into Maeby’s screaming mouth. “Uh, four.”
“Okay, your sister probably has baby food around, but it’d probably be less messy to give her a bottle.”
GOB sighed in relief. Finally, he was getting somewhere. “Okay, how do I do that?” He clamped the phone between his shoulder and his ear, and over the phone, Michael’s wife walked GOB through the process of making a bottle for his niece. As soon as Maeby saw what he was doing, she immediately stopped crying, her eyes trained on his hands as he filled the bottle, warmed it up, and shook it around, all one-handed.
Smart cookie, GOB thought, only a little annoyed that his infant niece had played him like she did. Maeby was just a baby, but she knew what she wanted and how to get it. It was pretty impressive.
“And that should be it. Do you know how to feed her?”
GOB did. He’d fed Buster premade bottles a few times, when GOB was ten and their mom was passed out drunk and couldn’t feed him herself, and he even had vague memories of “helping” the maid before Rosa feed either Michael or Lindsay when they were babies, back before the teasing and the Boyfights.
“Yeah, I can take it from here. Uh...thanks.”
“Of course. ...Should I leave a message, or a name with Michael, to let him know you called?”
“Um. It’s GOB.” The anxiety suddenly flooded back into his body - GOB hadn’t been in touch with Michael for a while - should he have not told Michael’s wife who he was? What was Michael going to say, knowing he was staying at Lindsay’s, and taking care of her kid? Would he be able to tell that GOB was broke, since he was staying with Lindsay? The voice over the phone was asking something, but GOB couldn't hear her, the anxiety about Michael’s reaction threatening to overwhelm him.
In his arms, Maeby started to whine as she reached towards the bottle on the counter, and GOB slowly slid back into reality. He hung up the phone quickly without saying goodbye, and gave himself a mental shake. Leaving a mess of formula, water, and oatmeal on the counter, GOB took Maeby and the bottle into the living room.
The reality of taking care of his niece helped to push the anxious thoughts from his mind. GOB tried to focus on the instructions he’d been given more than a decade ago - head in the crook of his elbow, bottle pointing up so no bubbles got in her throat, watch to make sure she isn't trying to swallow too much at once. Maeby was strong enough to hold the bottle up herself, so GOB just left her alone. His brain going blissfully quiet for once, he watched Maeby’s little brown-gray eyes drift closed as she drank the last of the bottle.
GOB slowly, slowly leaned back on the couch, pulling his legs up onto the cushions, and laid Maeby on his chest. GOB didn’t really want to put her in the crib - she might wake up on the way there, and then he’d be right back where he started, with a crying, fussy baby.
He let his eyes unfocus, listening to the buzz of the TV and the faint sounds of his baby niece’s breathing. GOB vaguely registered his stomach growling, but it didn’t really matter. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d gone to sleep hungry. He’d be doing the same thing if he were at his own apartment - he didn't have much in the way of food, or rent, for that matter, so he figured he’d keep laying low at Lindsay’s for a while. He couldn’t get kicked out of his apartment if he wasn’t there for the landlord to kick out, right? The thought made perfect sense to GOB’s drowsy brain.
His baby niece’s breaths tufted softly over GOB’s shoulder as she slept. GOB’s eyes slid shut as well, the couch suddenly seeming a lot more comfortable. Yeah. He could lay low here for a while.